For the first time, the Timberwolves and Lynx are teaming up on philanthropy, combining their foundations and unveiling a new grant program this month.
The FastBreak Foundation, which has long been the Timberwolves’ charitable arm, will now also represent the Lynx, T-Wolves Gaming and the Iowa Wolves. The foundation is also narrowing its focus. Instead of giving out smaller grants of $2,500 or $5,000 at each game, the foundation is shifting its focus to education, inclusion and wellness issues.
Later this month, it will announce five Minnesota nonprofits that will receive $25,000 a year for three years and 10 nonprofits that will receive $5,000 a year.
“We wanted to narrow the focus to further the impact we have in the community,” said Jennifer Ridgeway, vice president of social responsibility for the Timberwolves and Lynx, adding that the changes formalize its philanthropic work. “The philanthropy environment is definitely evolving more into a business model,” she said.
The change reflects a broader shift among foundations — from Target to Wells Fargo — that are refocusing how grants are given out. The FastBreak Foundation’s previous five grantmaking priorities — basketball, military issues, hunger, education and health and wellness — will still be a common thread in giving, Ridgeway said, such as encouraging wellness in veterans. The new focus on inclusion, she added, reflects the state’s increasing diversity.
The private foundation will also become a public one, which means it can accept donations and will have a larger board.
Time for volunteering
The organization is also boosting the philanthropic work that its players and employees do. Starting this year, its more than 150 employees are getting 16 paid time off hours to volunteer at a charity of their choice — part of a growing trend of companies offering such benefits.
The grants, volunteer efforts, in-kind donations to kids and FastBreak Foundation’s work all fall under the organization’s new effort, Pack Gives Back, which aims to work with 500,000 Minnesota youth and families and 2,500 nonprofits over the next five years.
“We’re going to be much more intentional about partnering with our nonprofit community,” Ridgeway said.
She said it’s the most significant overhaul of the organization’s community programs since the team was acquired by Glen Taylor in 1994. Taylor, a Mankato businessman, also owns the Star Tribune.
Minnesota’s other pro sports teams give back to the community, too. The Wild’s foundation distributes grants to support youth hockey and pediatric medical causes. The Twins’ community fund gives out grants, including ones that improve youth ball fields, and does programming such as introducing kids to baseball and softball.
And earlier this year, the Vikings Foundations launched a new food truck to distribute free healthy meals to Twin Cities kids in need.